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MCL 1st Semi Final Review: Unbeaten Gemini Survive Mustard Scare to Storm into the Finals

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Virender Sehwag in MCL
(Photo Source: Getty Images)

A gritty half century by Mahela Jayawardene and late hitting from Phil Mustard were not enough for the Sagittarius Strikers to overhaul the mighty total of 191 set by the Gemini Arabians in the first Semi-final of the inaugural edition of the Masters Champions League. Phil Mustard almost took the game away from the Arabians singlehandedly as he hammered a brutal 48 off 18 balls. The Gemini Arabians, the unbeaten side of the tournament, have now stormed into the finals riding on masterly knocks from Skipper Virender Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara.

Chasing a huge total of 191, the Sagittarius Strikers had a horrid start to the run chase as they lost their skipper Adam Gilchrist in the 2nd over of the innings. A slower delivery from Graham Onions went past the defences of the former Australian wicket-keeper to clatter the stumps. Gilchrist could manage only 12 runs on the night of the semi-finals. In walked Imran Farhat to join Mahela Jayawardene. Jayawardene hammered three back to back boundaries in Onions’ next over, to bring back the momentum in the Strikers’ favour. But his partner, Imran Farhat’s stay at the crease was cut short by Mills who dismissed him for 8. Sehwag held on to a simple catch at mid-on to dismiss Farhat. Jonathan Trott was the new man in to join Jayawardene only to be dismissed for 2 in Muralitharan’s first over. By the end of powerplay, Strikers looked struggling at 47/3.

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While Mahela cruised along and looked settled at the crease, Yasir Hameed struggled against the spin of Saqlain Mushtaq and Muralitharan. On the first ball of the 14th over, Hameed’s struggling presence, 16 off 21 balls, was broken by Muralitharan as he was stumped by Sangakkara. In the same over, Mahela Jayawardene brought up his half century in 40 balls. A boundary and a couple more saw Strikers cross the 100 run mark and reach 105/4 by the end of the 14th over. The decision to throw up the ball to Jacques Rudolph didn’t turn out to be fruitful for Arabians’ skipper Sehwag. The 15th over leaked 16 runs kudos to two huge blows by the left handed Englishman Phil Mustard. Mustard hit another maximum in the next over and looked dangerous at the crease for the bowlers. Onions was brought back into the attack and the ploy worked this time as he dismissed the set batsman Jayawardene. Jayawardene’s resistance came to an end as he could manage 65 off 52 balls embellished with 9 fours.

The match was as good as gone for the Strikers with Mustard being the sole ray of hope. He did not disappoint and piled up 23 runs of the 17th over bowled by Naved Ul-Hasan. He spanked the first ball for a six, followed it up with a four, and then clobbered another maximum over the deep midwicket region. Yasir Arafat (11) hit a couple of boundaries but was unlucky to be caught at deep backward square in the 19th over by Onions, giving him his third wicket. Needing 21 to win of the last over, all eyes were on Phil Mustard who was batting on 44 off just 15 balls. He couldn’t do much, and neither could Vettori in his attempt to slog, as the Strikers fell short by 10 runs at the end of their 20 overs. Mustard remained unbeaten on 48 in 18 balls.

With the win, the Gemini Arabians maintained their unbeaten streak to reach the finals of the inaugural MCL.

Earlier in the day, it was Sehwag’s initial blitz and Sangakkara’s calmness that set the tone for the Gemini Arabians in the first innings of the game. Gemini Arabians Skipper Virender Sehwag, after opting to bat first, led from the front and didn’t allow any of the Strikers’ bowlers to settle. Although his opening partner, Richard Levi (13) was castled by Daniel Vettori in the third over, Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara joined hands to form a marathon partnership of 118 runs off 79 balls for the second wicket. The Sehwag-Sanga pair put on a display of some great shots and soon piled up their individual half centuries. After hitting 7 boundaries and 2 sixes in his 43 ball 62, Sangakkara was the second man to be dismissed in the 16th over by Santokie.

Meanwhile, Sehwag continued bludgeoning the Strikers’ bowling at the other end. Sehwag was joined by Brad Hodge (13) who hurled a mighty six before being caught by Santokie off the bowling of Tino Best in the penultimate over. On the very next delivery, a dangerous looking Sehwag, seeking his second ton of the season, was dismissed as Jonathan Trott pocketed him off Tino Best’s delivery. Sehwag hit an authoritative 83 off 50 balls, with 12 boundaries and 2 mighty sixes. The last ball of the over yielded the 3rd wicket for Tino Best as he dismissed Jacques Rudolph for a golden duck. With scorecard reading 176/5 with 6 balls to spare and two new batsmen at the crease, not much was expected to happen. But an eventful last over from Santokie saw 15 runs coming from it. Naved ul-Hasan smacked 3 boundaries to take the score to 191/5 in 20 overs. Hasan remained unbeaten on 14 from 5 balls. Krishmar Santokie was highly expensive on the night as he returned with figures of 1/55 in his 4 overs.

Brief Scores:

Gemini Arabians: 191/5 in 20 Overs (Sehwag 83, Best 3/24)

Sagittarius Strikers: 181/6 in 20 overs (Jayawardene 65; Onions 3/37)

Man of the Match: Virender Sehwag (Gemini Arabians)

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